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American Pharaoh: Mayor Richard J. Daley - His Battle for Chicago and the Nation Paperback – May 1, 2001
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From Publishers Weekly
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
The authors paint a portrait of Daley that shows his enormous personal complexity--a devout Catholic and loyal family man who did not hesitate to engage in the most bare-fisted power politics or work to capitalize on the basest human instincts. While I tend to agree with other reviewers that the book focusses a bit heavily on racial matters during the Daley mayoralty, they played a major role during this period and Daley's attempt to balance the competing interests of white ethnics and black citizens ultimately undermined the absolute authority of the Chicago Democratic machine. I disagree with reviewers who say that the authors were too anti-Daley; I feel they made an honest effort to credit him for the considerable accomplishments of his tenure--including the preservation of Downtown Chicago as a going concern when so many other rust belt cities in the Midwest and Great Lakes area were going under (e.g., Detroit, St. Louis, Cleveland, Buffalo, and Pittsburgh). They make clear, however, the enormous price that was paid for his accomplishments, including the subversion of democracy and the exacerbation of racial tensions in Chicago.
For example, what do Daley's successes and failures as a public servant reveal about the political and social worlds in which they occurred? During the years he served as mayor, could he have achieved these same successes without maintaining absolute control of the city's political system? What did Daley share in common with those in control of the Chicago syndicate? To what extent were there strategic alliances with them? Why? If Daley was as corrupt as so many have claimed, why has no incontrovertible evidence of that corruption been presented?
The authors have much to say about Daley's relationship with Chicago's black community. This was an uneasy, at times hostile relationship. To what extent was Daley's leadership as mayor a reflection of the community (Bridgeport) in which he was born and raised? Did he hate blacks? Did he fear them? Or is there another explanation of his attitude toward them? Ancient pharaohs were on occasion benevolent to those whom they viewed as inferior as were, more recently, plantation owners in the Deep South. Perhaps Cohen and Taylor had this in mind when they selected their title.Read more ›
Richard J. Daley was such a huge figure that he deserves a Robert Caro level biography, ala LBJ and Robert Moses. The authors Cohen and Taylor have painstakingly assembled the facts of Daley's reign, largely from newspapers it appears, but did not seize the spirit of the times. The authors also missed the opportunities to interview some of the critical witnesses, such as Thomas Keane, Daley's political partner, who died during the writing. This book feels as if it was written by people who moved to Chicago ten years after Daley and then tried to reassemble the story. This is a workmanlike history, but not a passionate one.
If you're a political junkie, you should consider this book. It has the facts, the chronology, and the players. However, you won't get to know the Mayor, only his deeds.
PATRONAGE JOBS. Patronage jobs are distinguished from civil service jobs. Patronage jobs are awarded by ward bosses, while civil service jobs are not. The mayor preceding Daley (Martin Kennelly) was anti-patronage and had a war on patronage. He had insisted on using civil service exams in the hiring methods. Patronage workers are government workers who knew their jobs were at stake, unless they contributed time and money to election campaigns. (pages 92, 116, 121, 122). Chicago had 50 wards. Each ward was allotted a number of patronage jobs. For example, Daley's political base, the 11th ward, had 2,000 patronage jobs (p. 156). For any given branch of city government, from 50-75% might be patronage jobs. Each job applicant needed to document his precinct work, in applying for the job. For Daley's benefit, each patronage job was equivalent to getting ten free votes (p. 159).
PASSIVE HYPOCRACY. When faced with issues of segregation in schools or public housing, or violence in public housing, Daley responded with "vague expressions of sympathy," that is, with "passive hypocracy.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
Very informative and gripping. Great read for anyone who cares about Chicago and political history.Published 6 months ago by Amazon Customer
Disappointing. This book seemed critically acclaimed, which was why I was excited to read it. How often can you use the word "hardscrabble"? Read morePublished 6 months ago by Estelle88
Extremely well researched and analysed, this highly readable book shines a bright light on a complex character whose long period of office covered some of the momentous years of... Read morePublished 12 months ago by Steve Einfeld
Who could have guessed that, almost 39 years after his death, Mayor Daley would win the Kentucky Derby.Published 15 months ago by Robert Schneider
A masterpiece that not only serves as a biography of Richard Daley, but shows us how the City of Chicago came to be what it is today. Read morePublished 17 months ago by William Manzi
Chicago politics...ugly. Corruption is a culture that catches on quickly and sticks around.Published 20 months ago by winifred dollear